Alaskan Nature: Quick Facts

Alaska Marine Highway

Alaska's State Flower is the "Forget-Me-Not. Forget me not flowers are very fragrant in the evening and night time, though there is little or no scent in the daytime. They can be annual or perennial plants. Their seeds are found in small, tulip shaped pods along the stem to the flower.

The word Alaska is from the Aleut Indian word "alaxsxaq" or "agunalaksh" that mean the mainland or shore. Alaska was originally purchased from Russia 1867 for under 2 cents an acre. Secretary of State William Seward arranged for its purchase from the Russians for $7,200,000. The transfer of the territory took place on Oct. 18, 1867. Despite a price of about two cents an acre, the purchase was widely ridiculed as “Seward's Folly.” The first official census (1880) reported a total of 33,426 Alaskans, all but 430 being of aboriginal stock

At over 586,400 Square Miles, Alaska is twice the size of Texas. The State of Alaska is 2,700 miles east to west and 1400 miles north to south. Of the 20 highest peaks in the United States, 17 are in Alaska. Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America, is 20,320 ft. above sea level. Denali, the Indian name for the peak, means "The Great One." Alaska boasts the northernmost (Point Barrow), the easternmost (Pochnoi Point on Semisopochnoi Island in the Aleutians), and the westernmost (Amatignak Island in the Aleutians) points in the United States."

The search for gold played a major role in shaping the history of Alaska, from the discovery of gold in Juneau to the great gold rush at Nome. The Gold Rush of 1898 resulted in a mass influx of more than 30,000 people. Since then, Alaska has contributed billions of dollars' worth of products to the U.S. economy. Gold was named the state mineral in 1968.

Alaska has 3 million lakes, over 3,000 rivers and more coastline  than the entire continental United States. It is the only state to have coastlines on three different seas; the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea.

Alaska has an estimated 100,000 glaciers, which cover almost 5 percent of the state. In fact  over half of the world's glaciers are found in Alaska, meaning there are more active glaciers in Alaska than in the rest of the inhabited world. The largest glacier is the Malaspina at 850 square miles. Five percent of the state, or 29,000 square miles, is covered by glaciers.

Alaska is also home to 80 percent of all the active volcanoes in the U.S.  There are more than 70 potentially active volcanoes in Alaska.. Several have erupted in recent times. The most violent volcanic eruption of the century took place in 1912 when Novarupta Volcano erupted, creating the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes which is now part of Katmai National Park.

On March 27, 1964, North America’s strongest recorded earthquake, with a moment magnitude of 9.2, rocked central Alaska. Each year Alaska has approximately 5,000 earthquakes, including 1,000 that measure above 3.5 on the Richter scale. Of the ten strongest earthquakes ever recorded in the world, three have occurred in Alaska.

The design for the Alaska flag was selected in a contest for Alaska students in grades seven through twelve in 1926. The winning design, submitted by 13-year-old Benny Benson, consisted of eight gold stars on a field of blue, representing the Big Dipper and the North Star. The Alaska Legislature adopted the design as the official flag for the Territory of Alaska on May 2, 1927. Later the drafters of the Alaska constitution stipulated that the territorial flag would become the official flag of the State of Alaska.

State Nick Name: "The Last Frontier"

State Motto: "North to the Future" - Alaska's motto was chosen in 1967 during the Alaska Purchase Centennial and was created by Juneau newsman Richard Peter. The motto is meant to represent Alaska as a land of promise.

State Bird: The Alaska Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus alascensis Swarth) is the official bird of the state.

State Flower: The Territorial Legislature approved the forget-me-not as the official floral emblem of the Alaska Territory and the Governor signed the legislation into law on April 28, 1917.

State Fossil: Alaska's state fossil is the Wooly Mammoth. Woolly mammoths are symbolic of the ice age because of their large size (about 10 feet high at the shoulders), broad circumpolar geographic distribution, relative abundance during the last glaciation and adaptation to cold environments.

State Fish: The king salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) is the official fish of the state.

Sate Mammal: The state land mammal is the moose and the state marine mammal is the bowhead whale. The state dog is the Alaskan malamute.

State Gem: The Alaska Legislature chose jade as the state gem in 1968. When the original Alaskans found the nuggets of jade that tumbled downstream in the Kobuk River, they used the gem to make tools, weapons, and jewelry.


mining for gold in Alaska

jade item made from alaskan jade

Alaska State Symbols:

Learn about the  symbols, motto and flag for the great state of Alaska

Learn more about Alaskan symbols

Tree Flower Bird
Mammal Marine Fish
Insect Mineral Gem